Second Time’s a Charm


// by Christina Boyle Cush

Leanne Lee’s superpower is upcycling, the buzzword for making your old stuff look better. Lee, the so-called “Diva of DIY,” run­s a Kansas City, MO-based contracting business, Rekindled Spaces. Her creative, budget-friendly approach to homescaping won her the title of Home + Garden’s Trendsetter of the Year. Below are Lee’s tips for turning the tortured parts of your home into treasured ones. Lee will be in Jacksonville for the Spring Home & Patio Show, March 5-8.

Project: Bland bookcase turned palatable statement piece
“Inexpensively add personality to a plain, open-backed bookcase by backing it with pallet wood,” says Lee, who calls big box stores or marble slab businesses to see if they have any pallets they’d like to unload for free. After you get your wood home, separate the planks from the frame with a metal-blade hacksaw. “Saw right through the nails,” Lee says, adding, “Pry off the pallet boards and they’ll split.” Measure the back opening of the bookcase. Using a table saw, cut the wood to fit and attach with finish nails. Merchandise with your favorite things.

Project: Ugly bathroom vanity gets beautified
Take an outdated bathroom vanity and make it current. Lee promises, “It’s simple to switch out the hardware and buy furniture feet at Home Depot.” Sand the vanity with 220 sandpaper, paint it with latex enamel. Add the new knobs and feet when dry.

Project: Give new life to your kitchen cabinets
Stain or paint wood cabinets any color you like. Remove the doors with a drill or screwdriver, noting where the doors belong. Sand the doors on both sides with 220. Next, paint (use a shellac-based primer and an enamel cabinet paint) or stain (apply with a stain pad and finish with a top-coat sealer) one side. “The doors should dry overnight before flipping them over to paint the other side,” notes Lee. Keep the cabinet frames mounted to the wall while sanding and staining or painting them, letting them dry overnight before reattaching doors.

Project: Hide flat-screen TVs
Somehow, televisions became important enough to replace artwork or mirrors above fireplaces. Buck the trend and use 220 sandpaper, a primer, flat black paint, a paintbrush and a low-nap roller to paint your fireplace mantel and the wall around and above it. “This creates a unique focal point in a beige room with white trim.”

Project: Disguise the Spanish accent on your tile floor
Say adios to your terra-cotta tile and beige grout lines. “Clean the floor and let it dry.” Then pick up some Zinsser B-I-N (a shellac-based primer that bonds to tile), and apply two coats of concrete or garage-floor paint with a floor-stick and low-nap roller. Muy bonita.

Project: Keep the popcorn for movies—not your ceiling
Think your bumpy ceiling is icky? Then tape off the walls with rolls of plastic sheeting. “Tape all the way around the room, says Lee, tenting yourself in.” Then comes the fun part: grab a pump-operated garden sprayer, wet the ceiling with warm water and work a straight-blade to shave off the popcorn. “Wear goggles and a baseball hat,” she recommends, as the wet stuff will plop down. Let the ceiling dry over night, then sand it, spackle gouged areas and let it dry. Coat it with a sheen-free paint, to hide any flaws the popcorn was covering.

Project: Make terra-cotta pots look new
Lasso a partner to help and invest in super-strong outdoor adhesive Liquid Nails (“This isn’t hot-glue-gun time,” warns Lee) and your rope of choice to wrap old pots and give them new life. For variety, try different natural materials like jute or sisal in different thicknesses, or use colorful and synthetic Paracord. “I’ve even turned an old tire into an ottoman with this rope-wrapping method.”

Project: Upgrade upholstery with fabric paint
Utilize stencils and fabric paint on wingback chairs or an inherited settee to give them a fresh vibe. “Chairs that twist, turn, or recline should not be painted,” she says, sounding like someone who learned this the hard way.